Bouzouki Basics Overview

  • 13 lessons teaching foundations of how to accompany Irish tunes.
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The bouzouki is a relative newcomer to Irish music having been imported from the Greek tradition during the 1960’s. The bouzouki is seldom used as a melody instrument and so found its place in the accompaniment section of Irish traditional music. It is often a preferred method of accompaniment to the guitar, harp and piano as its distinctive sound is very appealing. It is quite versatile harmonically and different approaches to playing are constantly being developed.

This course is suitable for the absolute beginner.

Course Structure

The aim of this course is to learn how to accompany Irish music on the bouzouki. Chords and chord structures, strumming patterns and fingerpicking, counter melody and rhythm are all examined. Students will become familiar with the framework behind traditional Irish music accompaniment: the role of the accompanist in duo or group playing and good session etiquette. Emphasis will be mainly on accompaniment, however, counter melody will form an important part of the program. Students who complete this course will have a firm grounding in accompanying Irish music on the bouzouki.

Here’s a complete list of the topics covered, lesson by lesson:

The Power Chord (Moveable Chord)
Introduction To The Bouzouki
Basic Rhythm Structures And Chords
Rhythmic Structures And Chords
Chord Structures For Tunes In The Key Of D Major
Chords Used To Accompany Tunes In G Major
Chord Structures For Accompanying Tunes In Minor Keys
Chordal Developments For Use In The Key Of D Major
Chordal Accompaniment For Tunes In The Keys Of E Minor And B Minor
Counter Melodies In Accompaniment
Keys Of A Major And A Minor / Capo Technique
Putting The Theory Into Practice
Pigeon On The Gate (tune covering Chordal Structures and Strumming Patterns)

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Recommended Bouzouki for Beginners by Billy Mag Fhlionn

It is often the case that people who take up bouzouki may already have experience playing a stringed instrument, such as a guitar. Others may come to the instrument with no experience at all. Making the right choice for you, therefore, depends on what you want to achieve.

For those who wish to find out what a bouzouki plays like, but are not willing to commit much money, there are quite cheap options available. Suppliers such as Thomann have bouzoukis available for as little as €175. These are very basic models, and one should not expect much from them in terms of amazing sound quality, but they are real instruments, making real music, and one will soon get the feel for what it is like to play. Another example of an entry model would be a Hora bouzouki, made in Romania.

There are other, middle of the road options available too, if one wishes to take it a bit further. One reasonable choice would be the Trinity College bouzouki, an all-wood construction with a relatively good sound. It is easily found online from several sources. An Irish store selling a wide range of instruments is Moloney Music. Suppliers such as Hobgoblin also have a decent selection of mid-range instruments, from makers such as Ashbury or Hathway.

If you are willing to fully commit to being a bozouki player, you should consider investing in a hand-built custom instrument from a master luthier. This should be considered your ‘forever’ instrument, one you would be happy to play with for the rest of your days. It will involve a considerable financial outlay, but these top end instruments tend to hold their value. You should expect to pay at least €2000, and up to €6000 or more, but the difference between a good bouzouki and a great bouzouki is immense, and well worth it. Besides the basic instrument itself, consideration should be given to things such as scale length, decorative inlays, exotic woods, pickups and a decent travel case. These will all effect the overall price, but the latter two, at least, are necessary expenses.

Some examples of top end makers would be Joe Foley, Stefan Sobell, Peter Abnett, Nigel Forster, Davey Stuart, Phil Crump and Roger Bucknall. There are more makers of course, and it is worth doing research to find out the type of bouzouki that is right for you. Care should also be given to where the maker is located, and how long the waiting list is.

Good luck in your playing, and remember to practice often.

Advice Starting Out with the Bouzouki

As you will already be familiar with playing the bouzouki, you are recommended to be open to new ways of structuring your music or interpreting chords and so on. It helps to have a good feel for Irish music, so spend as much time listening to it as you do practicing your new rhythm structures. These lessons are structured in a very specific way, each building on the other, so you are very much encouraged to follow the lessons in their sequence.

Your Tutor
learn bouzoukiBilly Mag Fhloinn was born and raised in a musical family in Limerick City. He began playing traditional music in 1996, beginning on the bodhrán. He then progressed onto the bouzouki, after a chance find of an old Greek model in a music shop in Limerick. He learned much of his playing from musicians Mick Broderick and Tony Davoren when living in Dublin, and gained great experience playing the wild dance music of west Kerry when living on the Dingle Peninsula. He has recorded on several albums as an accompanist, and has shared the stage with a variety of performers, including Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Gerry O’Beirne, Éamon Doorley, Donal Clancy and Ross Martin. When not playing music, he lectures in Irish Studies at University of Limerick and Mary Immaculate College. Read more.

 

Detailed questions and discussion on the course can be found in the Community Forum, available to paying members only.

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Bouzouki Basics Lessons

Level

The Power Chord

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 1

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Introduction to Billy’s Teaching Techniques / The Power Chord (Moveable Chord)

Focus on Technique

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Introduction to the Bouzouki

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 2

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Introduction to the Bouzouki

Focus on Technique

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Basic Rhythm Structures And Chords

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 3

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Basic Rhythm Structures and Chords

Focus on Technique

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Rhythmic Structures And Chords

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 4

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Rhythmic Structures and Chords

Focus on Technique

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Chord Structures For Tunes In The Key Of D Major

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 5

  • Accompaniment
  • D Major
  • Level 1
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Chord structures for Tunes in the Key of D major.

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Chords Used To Accompany Tunes In G Major

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 6

  • Accompaniment
  • G Major
  • Level 1
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Chords used to Accompany Tunes in G Major / Alternative Chord Shapes

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Chord Structures For Accompanying Tunes In Minor Keys

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 7

  • A Minor
  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Chord Structures for Accompanying Tunes in Minor Keys.

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Chordal Developments For Use In The Key Of D Major

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 8

  • Accompaniment
  • D Major
  • Level 1
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Chordal Developments for Use in the Key of D Major.

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Chordal Accompaniment For Tunes In The Keys Of E Minor And B Minor

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 9

  • Accompaniment
  • E Minor
  • Level 1
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Chordal Accompaniment for Tunes in the Keys of E Minor and B Minor

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Counter Melodies In Accompaniment

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 10

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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How to Use Counter Melodies in Accompaniment

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Keys Of A Major And A Minor / Capo Technique

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 11

  • A Major
  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Exploration of the Keys of A Major and A Minor / Capo Technique / Strumming Patterns Specifically for Jigs …

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Putting The Theory Into Practice

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 12

  • Accompaniment
  • Level 1
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Putting the Theory Into Practice: Tune Accompaniment

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Pigeon on the Gate

Bouzouki Accompaniment Lesson 13

  • Accompaniment
  • E Minor
  • Level 1
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Chordal Structures / Strumming Patterns

Reel

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